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Drones Are a Relatively New Invention and Phenomena
Posted: 11/28/2016

The oldest drone patent we could find goes all the way back to 1995. Most of us were still upgrading to this new-fangled Windows from DOS. Remember turning on your PC and seeing just a "C:" on the screen? That was the year of the Oklahoma City bombing and the O.J. Simpson trial. Well, three mad scientists from Northrup Grumman - the aerospace and defense contractor that built the Apollo Lunar Module - were granted U.S. Patent No. 5,779,190 for a "Portable Unmanned Aerial Vehicle."

But they were not first. One Johnny Swinton was granted U.S. Patent No. 5,890,441 for a "Horizontal and Vertical Take-Off and Landing Unmanned Aerial Vehicle" in September of 1995. It appears that Mr. Swinton not only filed for the foundational patent for drones (his patent has almost 200 forward citations), but he coined the term "Unmanned Aerial Vehicle" that is still used today and creates the acronym "UAV."

But the Great Great Grand Daddy of all drone patents belongs to none other than.....Nikola Tesla. We seem to cover Mr. Tesla every month in this space regardless of what technology we are writing about! In July of - get ready for this - 1898, Tesla was granted U.S. Patent No. 613,809 for a "Method of and Apparatus for Controlling Mechanism of Moving Vessels or Vehicles." This was 1898 and the Wright Brothers were not going to invent manned flight for another five years, so Tesla's drone patent was not for an aircraft but for a remote-controlled boat.

IPOfferings Patent Is Covered in Two Key Trade Magazines
Posted: 10/25/2016

IPOfferings represents a most interesting patent for what is the world’s smallest camera. That is quite a statement, but it is true. U.S. Patent No. 8,077,245 for an Apparatus for Imaging Using an Array of Lenses describes not a mini-camera, not even a micro-camera, but a nano camera that is literally the size of a postage stamp!

Two trade magazines for the optics and photographic industry recently covered the patent in their September 21 and September 23 issues. Click on the magazine logo to link to the article.


Edison and Tesla Did Not Waste Any Time
Posted: 10/25/2016

No sooner did Thomas Edison electrify America, than he realized he needed to find some way to measure the electricity he was generating and selling to his customers. So he invented the electric meter. It was U.S. Patent No. 242,901 for an Electric Meter issued June 14, 1881.

As you should know from last month’s Patent Leather feature, Edison was a proponent of DC power. It was Nikola Tesla who championed AC power, so he also invented and patented an electric meter. Tesla was awarded U.S. Patent No. 455,608 for an Electrical Meter June 30, 1891.

Why We Have an AC, and NOT a DC, Electric Grid
Posted: 9/26/2016

It is not by chance that the U.S. has an AC power grid. It was the result of a monumental battle among none other than Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse. The ultimate decision came down to $151,000.

Edison supported DC because (a.) he invented it, and (b.) it is simpler system. With direct current, the flow of electrons that is electricity flows in one direction. Tesla supported AC because (a.) he invented it and (b.) it has benefits over DC power. With alternating current the electrons shift back and forth (alternate) as they flow through the grid. AC power generators are cheaper to build and operate, and AC power can be transmitted more efficiently over longer distances. Also, AC controls the speed of motors that use AC power, while a motor that is feed DC power will need to have a speed regulator on it.

Thomas Edison received several patents for a Magneto-Electric Machine, but most agree that U.S. Patent No. 222,881 issued in 1789 is the major DC electric power generation patent. Known as the “long-legged Mary-Ann” it was the model for the power generation stations that Edison built throughout the New York City area.

Nikola Tesla, who had worked for Edison, and left to make his own mark on innovation (and did), was issued U.S. Patent No. 359,784 in 1887 for a “Dynamo Electric Machine,” and other patents followed for AC power generators.

The first showdown of DC versus AC was in 1893 when bids were solicited to provide electricity for the Columbian Exposition, the world’s fair of that time that was coming to Chicago. Thomas Edison, backed by General Electric, put in a bid of $550,000 to provide DC electric service. Nikola Tesla, backed by George Westinghouse and huge business he had built, under-bid them at $399,000 for AC electric storage.

Tesla’s and Westinghouse’s electrical system for the Columbian Exposition was an incredible success! It provided reliable electrical power to a world that was still largely lit by gas and kerosene. So it could be said that it was $151,000 that gave the U.S. an AC power grid.

There was a second event just a few years later that double-sealed the fate of the DC-AC debate when the Niagara Falls Commission made the decision to build its power plant to distribute AC power across the Northeastern U.S.

Edison went on to fame and riches. His power generation companies still exist today as the Consolidated Edison Companies, or “ConEd” as the Greater New York electric utility is known. George Westinghouse grew Westinghouse Corporation into a Fortune 500 company. Its broadcast business was sold off to CBS and the rest of the business is now part of Seimens. Tesla died broke and broken, but did get a car company named after him.

Paper, Paper, Paper…
Posted: 8/24/2016

Historians, anthropologists and others with time on their hands have waxed long and often about the impact that paper has had on civilization. For almost 500 years, printed documents were how humankind shared its collective knowledge. When Time Magazine picked its Top Ten of the Millennium, it is no surprise that Johannes Gutenberg made the list. Had paper not been invented first (by the Chinese, incidentally), and brought to Europe, the printing press could not exist.

Let’s not forget, however, that paper has many uses beyond the printed word and image. So, for this intriguing edition of Patent Leather, we present three U.S. Patents related to paper but not related to the printed word or image.

Paper Towel

Back in 1910, one Arthur H. Scott received U.S. Patent No. 1,141,495 for “Paper Towel.” His objective was to create a “cheap towel formed from paper and adapted for all general uses of the lavatory, factories, hospitals, laboratories, and for general use.” Well, gee, we guess so! Here is the sole diagram from his patent.

We automatically assumed that Mr. Scott was the founder of the Scott Paper Company. Not exactly. He was the son of Irwin Scott, one of the founders of the Scott Paper Company, and in charge of advertising for the company. His dad must have been very proud of him.

Paper Plate

What would a picnic or backyard barbeque be without paper plates? Ask Martin Keyes. He is credited with inventing the paper plate. In 1908, he was awarded U.S. Patent No. 903,869 for an "Apparatus for Making Pulp Articles." Keyes did not patent the paper plate itself, he patented the machine that makes the paper plate. Here is a diagram from his patent.

His company, Keyes Fibre Co., flourished and survives today as Keyes Packaging Group.

Paper Airplane

Yes, Virginia, there is a patent for a paper airplane! If you think historians, anthropologists and other academics have time on their hands, how much time must James BonDurant have had to not only dream up, configure and test, but also patent, his paper airplane. He filed for the patent in 1981, and we can only assume that after a few hundred patent examiners in Arlington had tired of flying them around from building to building, they granted U.S. Patent No. 4,377,052 for a "Folded Paper Airplane" and went back to work. Here is the key diagram from the patent.

There is no evidence that Jim ever sold or licensed his patent. We ordered in a few cartons of paper, and the IPOfferings staff will be trying out BonDurant’s patent.

Thomson Reuters Sells Its IP Unit
Posted: 7/27/2016

When Canadian newspaper publisher Thomson Corporation acquired British news service Reuters Group back in 2008, Thomson Reuters Corporation was established and they set up their global headquarters in Manhattan. The company just announced that it will sell its Philadelphia-based IP and science business unit to Onex Corporation and Baring Private Equity Asia for a whopping $3.55 billion…in cash! Thomson Reuters will use the cash to buy back shares, pay down debt and reinvest in its core businesses.

The business unit Thomson Reuters is selling provides patent, trademark and other IP and scientific content to private businesses, government agencies and universities. The business employs about 3,200 people in its 75 offices around the world. The unit’s businesses include Web of Science, Thomson CompuMark, Thomson Innovation, MarkMonitor, Thomson Reuters Cortellis and Thomson IP Manager.

From the Sheaves and Threshing Floor
Posted: 7/25/2016

There are references throughout the Old Testament to the threshing floor. Wheat was cut in the field and collected into sheaves, which were brought to the threshing floor. The stalks of wheat were flailed, causing the wheat buds to drop off. The useless part of the wheat plant, the “chaff” was burned as it had no use even as fertilizer or mulch. The wheat buds where then ground into wheat for bread. The whole process “separated the wheat from the chaff” and from that winnowing process has been drawn many lessons.
That was the process until only about 200 years ago. In 1831, Cyrus McCormick introduced his Reaper, a machine that would cut the wheat and collect it into sheaves, but he did not apply for a patent until 1834. It took him a few years to set up production, and by 1842 he had sold seven reapers. He sold 29 Reapers in 1843 and 50 in 1844. In 1847, he moved his factory to Chicago and exhibited his Reaper at the Crystal Palace Exhibition in London in 1851.

When McCormick went to renew his patent in 1848, he was informed by the Patent Bureau that since one Obed Hussey had applied for a patent for a Reaper back in 1833, McCormick’s Reaper Patent would not be renewed and he was to pay royalties to Mr. Hussey! Undeterred, McCormick charged ahead, manufactured reapers that were sold all over the world, and made a fortune. He married his secretary, and had seven sons, one of whom married a daughter of John D. Rockefeller.

Now that grains could be mechanically cut and gathered into sheaves, there was still the issue of separating the wheat from the chaff. The two processes – reaping (or harvesting the grain) and threshing or thrashing the harvested grain to separate the wheat buds – needed to be merged into one operation, and that was done by Hiram Moore and John Hassall who received a patent in 1836 for a “Machine for Mowing, Threshing and Winnowing Grain.”

On December 26, 1837, A.W. Bowling received U.S. Patent No. 530 for a “Thrashing Machine,” and just three days later, John and Hiram Pitts received U.S. Patent No. 542 for a “Machine for Thrashing and Separating Grain” on December 29!

Somehow “threshing” was now “thrashing,” and both inventions were based on a drum into which the sheaves were fed, and as the drum turned, teeth in the drum broke up the stalks of wheat so the wheat buds would drop out the bottom. These units never really caught on since a combined unit to both reap and wheat from the field, and thresh and winnow out the wheat buds just made more sense.

The image from the Moore-Hassall patent is not very good, but their Mowing/Threshing/Winnowing machine was clearly very sophisticated for early 19th Century technology! From this concept came the combine harvester of today.

Guess the Invention
Posted: 6/25/2016

Here are drawings from four recently issued patents. See if you can figure out what they are.

This drawing is from U.S. Design Patent D759706 that was just issued to Microsoft. The patent is titled “Display screen with animated graphical user interface”. We have to ask: Is Microsoft getting into the smartphone business? Or is this for a handheld device of some kind?
This is also a design patent, and also one recently issued to Microsoft. It is U.S. Design Patent D759657 titled “Connector with illumination region”. We have no idea what this is, but we will probably see it one day and go “Aha!”

This is for a U.S. Patent No. 9,373,032 that was just issued to Hewlett-Packard. It is titled “Forensic verification utilizing forensic markings inside halftones” and it is for a forensic verification system that extracts a print signature via a print signature extractor from an interior of a halftone contained in an image. The system utilizes a comparator to compare the print signature to a reference signature stored in a registry to determine differences between the print signature and the reference signature. The system utilizes a forensic analyzer to perform a forensic analysis on the signatures based on the comparison to authenticate the image.

This is also from a patent just issued to HP. It is U.S. Patent No. 9,372,644 titled “Sending a job processing notice to a social network contact.” It covers a directive that is received at a computer system to send to social network contacts of a sharer user, via a web application, processing information relating to print or scan jobs associated with the sharer user. Data is received, the data indicative of first processing of a print or scan job associated with the sharer user. A notice of the first processing is sent to a first social network contact of the sharer user via the web application.

Solar Power Has Been Around Longer Than We Thought
Posted: 5/25/2016

So just how old is solar panel technology? Solar panel farms are common sights today. This is the result of federal dollars subsidizing solar power, the reduced cost of manufacturing solar-power-generation equipment, and the advent of net metering that puts a dollar value on solar power.

We did some research, and were surprised to find that solar power is over 100 years old! The first patent for a solar power device – well, make that the first two patents – were issued in 1888, just 10 years after Edison’s first electric lamp patent! One Edward Weston of the 19th Century high-tech city of Newark, New Jersey, was awarded U.S. Patent No. 389,124 for “Apparatus for Generating Solar Radiant Energy” and U.S. Patent No. 389,125 for “Art of Utilizing Solar Radiant Energy.”

It is interesting to note that the Patent Office had much shorter turnaround on patent applications in the 19th Century. Mr. Weston applied for his patents in October of 1887 and both were granted just 11 months later in September of 1888.

Other solar patents soon followed. Just six years later, Melvin Sweeney of Boston was issued U.S. Patent No. 527,379 for “Apparatus for Generating Electricity by Solar Heat.” Things were really buzzing along at the Patent Office that year. Mr. Sweeney applied for his patent in February of 1894, and the patent was issued just eight months later in October 9.

Just three years later, Harry C. Reagan of Philadelphia was issued U.S. Patent No. 588,177 for “Application of Solar Heat to Thermal Batteries.”

What we find intriguing here is that the Patent Office issued 138,000 patents between 1888 and 1894! That is almost 2,000 new patents issued a month over six years! This was, of course, the height of the Industrial Revolution, and innovators were busy inventing what would be the 20th Century. It is also interesting to note that the innovators of the 19th Century were from the Northeast. Not the SunBelt or sunny California.

The First Wind Turbine
Posted: 4/26/2016

It is not uncommon to see a hill or mountain with wind turbines scattered across it, but that is a fairly recent site. Fact is, wind turbines have actually been around for well over 100 years. In fact, it was 128 years ago that one Charles Brush built a 60-foot tower with a 56-foot rotating blade that generated up to about 12kW of electricity for his lavish home on fashionable Euclid Avenue in Cleveland. Remember that in the 19th Century, Pittsburgh and Cleveland were Silicon Valley!

Mr. Brush, holder of over 50 patents and an engineer by training, was a pioneer in early electrical generation. He sold his business to the Thomas-Houston company which was one of the businesses that would become General Electric. Charles Brush is known as the father of street lighting. Remember that the next time you drop your keys coming home for dinner on the town.

Brush’s wind turbine had 144 blades that created 1,800 square feet of wind-catching surface. The turbine fed electrical current into twelve batteries with 34 cells each that powered his home for twenty years!

The First Calculator
Posted: 4/26/2016

The granddaddy of the PC was the calculator, and the forerunner of the calculator was the adding machine, a device that goes back to 1885. While Charles Brush was building his wind turbine in Cleveland, a few hundred miles to the West in St. Louis, Charles Burroughs was inventing the adding machine. Things have apparently not changed much at the Patent Office. Burroughs applied for his initial patent in 1885 and it took three years for the patent to issue. Must have been all the prior art on other adding machines.

Burrough’s first machine could add numbers up to nine digits and it included a printing mechanism that printed just the total. His second patent covered a unit that printed all numbers entered along with the total.

Burroughs called his device an “arithometer” and found the American Arithometer Company to produce and sell his newfangled machines. After his death in 1904, the company name was changed to the Burroughs Adding Machine Company, and it owned the industry for years. Burroughs expanded into ledger or accounting machines, and from that into mainframe computers in the mid-twentieth century when it became Burroughs Corporation.

In 1986, as the mainframe industry consolidate, Burroughs Corporation merged with Sperry Univac to form Unisys. In 2010, the Burroughs name re-appeared when Unisys spun off its Payment Systems Division as Burroughs Payment Systems. Today Burroughs Payment Systems services ATMs.

Applications for LED
Posted: 3/25/2016

LEDs were initially used as indicator lights. They were small, so they were ideal to show that a circuit was live or as a warning light. In the late 1960s and into the early 1970s, LEDs blossomed as hand-held and desktop calculators hit the market. LED displays (and, also, liquid crystal displays) used what became known as a “seven segment display” to use a configuration of seven bars to create digits and letters. It is pretty clunky by today’s standards, but it was high-tech in the days of double-knit sports jackets and T-Top cars.

Today, LEDs have broad applications beyond calculators. Surface mounted diodes (SMDs) are used in most cell phones and PDAs. Their relatively low power consumption make LEDs very attractive in portable devices for which battery life is a critical factor.

In the consumer, commercial and industrial worlds, LED lighting is giving both incandescent and fluorescent lighting a run for its money. One of the newest applications are large LED ceiling panels that imitate natural sunlight. LED lighting is also being used in retail signage and traffic lights. London is currently in the middle of upgrading 350,000 of the city’s street lights to LED. LEDs are also gaining ground in architectural lighting, including decorative and functional outdoor lighting and to illuminate walkways, pools, fountains, gardens and statues.

A Brief History of the LED
Posted: 3/25/2016

We always start with the patent, although LED technology had actually been around for over 50 years before the first patent was issued. In 1907, British researcher Henry Joseph Round discovered inorganic materials that lit up when an electric current was applied. He published his findings in “Electrical World,” but his findings were largely ignored and forgotten.

In 1921, Russian physicist Oleg Lossew observed what he called the “round effect” of light emission. In 1935, a French physicist, Georges Destriau, discovered the light-emission qualities of zinc sulfide, and in honor of his Russian colleague, he called it “Lossew Light.”

In 1962, two researchers at Texas Instruments, James Biard and Gary Pittman, filed for a patent for a “Semiconductor radiant diode.” Today, it takes on average about three years to receive a patent. Things were apparently even slower in the 1960s at the old Patent Office in Arlington because it took four years for the patent to issue. U.S. Patent No. 3,293,513 was issued December 20, 1966. Like many foundational patents, it has just a few patent citations (just), but multiple forward citations (80). Patent applications filed as recently as 2013 cite this foundational patent.

In the 1960s and 70s, LEDs were developed in specific colors – initially green, orange and yellow. By 1993, there were white LEDs. In 2006, the first LED to produce 100 lumens per watt was developed, and LED is now competitive with incandescent lighting, the descendant of Edison’s original electric light concept.

Patent of the Month: What Started It All
Posted: 2/23/2016

On February 25, 1837, the U.S. Patent Office issued U.S. Patent No. 132 for an “Improvement in Propelling Machinery by Magnetism and Electro-Magnetisim” to one Thomas Davenport of Vermont. Those crafty New Englanders. The patent describes the first electric motor. It was powered by a galvanic battery and used zinc and copper plates as armatures. From this patent came everything from printing presses to washing machines, disk drives to electric cars. Just 179 years ago, and forty years before the electric light or the telephone.

Isn’t That the IBM XT?
Posted: 2/23/2016

The IT community is all abuzz about Microsoft’s newest patent. It appears that Patent Application 2016/0041582 for a “Modular Computing Device” is about to issue. The patent describes a computer device that “includes a display modular component including a housing, a display device physically and communicatively coupled to the housing via a hinge, and one or more display hardware elements disposed within the housing that are configured to output a display for display by the display device.”

So it’s a bunch of components that you connect together to make a computing device. Isn’t that what the first generation of PCs was? And didn’t we hate all the wires and cables? And why couldn’t it all be in one nice combined unit? And when you turn it on, all you got was a C: on the screen.

And We Thought They Just Gave Out Pink Cadillacs!
Posted: 2/23/2016

Mary Kay has been known for giving pink Cadillacs to its top sales performers, but the company has been busy elsewhere. Mary Kay has announced that it just passed the 1,200 mark in issued patents. According to the company’s Chief Marketing Officer, Sheryl Adkins-Green, "Mary Kay's patents play a key role in keeping our products competitive and protecting the company's unique ingredients, formulas, technologies and product designs."

Mary Kay holds patents for not just its products, but also for its product packaging. The company’s Vice President and Associate Counsel for Intellectual Property and Innovation, John Wiseman, adds that "The patent process spurs innovation. Because we can protect our inventions, we have an incentive to continue inventing great things." Which kinda sums up the whole patent concept very nicely.

Founder Mary Kay Ash, who passed away 2001 – but looked great – inspired her troops with a collection of adages. Our favorite: “If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Interesting Hoverboard Events at CES
Posted: 1/24/2016

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is the largest trade show in the U.S. It meets every year in Las Vegas in January, and it features two million square feet of exhibits and 170,000 attendees. As is the case with most trade shows, the really interesting stuff goes on in the evening in one of the casinos. Not the case this year!

Two U.S. Marshalls showed up (Did they need badges, or could they just walk in?) and raided the booth of Changzhou First International Trade and confiscated the company's "Trotter," a one-wheel hoverboard on display in the Changzhou First booth. U.S. hoverboard designer and manufacturer Future Motion had gone into U.S. District Court in Las Vegas, and the company had requested and received a restraining order, seizure order and temporary injunction. We do not know if the U.S. Marshalls carried or rode the hoverboard out of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Future Motion: Good for you!

Taking a defensive approach, another hoverboard manufacturer, Hangzhou Chic Intelligent Technology had on display in its booth not just its newest products, but its various U.S., European and Japanese patents and patent applications! In the patent brokerage business we have what is called a "defensive buy." Hangzhou Chic has invented the first "defensive trade show display." Bravo!

GM Does Not Like Uber
Posted: 1/24/2016

Just a few years out of bankruptcy, General Motors is profitable with cash in the bank. It is using that cash to partner with Lyft, a competitor of popular car service Uber. GM also scooped up some interesting assets from Sidecar, a recently defunct competitor to Uber and Lyft. As is often the case is such acquisitions, follow the patents.

Sidecar founder Sunil Paul comes to GM along with his intellectual property, specifically U.S. Patent No. 6,356,838 for a "System and method for determining an efficient transportation route" that features a 2000 priority date. Way, way before we ever heard of "uber" other than as a substitute for "very" as in "uber smart" or "uber angry." Talk is that GM will assert is shiny new uber patent and uber assert it against Uber.

But American Had It First!
Posted: 1/24/2016

As is almost always the case, America was first. George Selden beat Carl Benze to the patent office - in this case, the U.S. Patent Office - when he filed a patent application in 1879, seven years prior to Herr Benz's filing. However, Mr. Selden's patent for a "Road Engine" was not issued until 1895. We cannot totally blame the Patent Office or blame the 16-year pendency of Mr. Selden's patent application on prior art issue. Some believe that Selden purposely delayed the issuance of the patent because he was not ready to start manufacturing, and he wanted to delay issuance of the patent until he was.

There are not too many Seldens on the road, but there a lots of Fords. Henry Ford chose to NOT license the Selden patent, and when Ford was sued for patent infringement, he lost on the first round. However, when Ford appealed the ruling, he won on the basis that Selden's patent called for a two-cycle engine and Ford used a four-cycle engine. Gotta read those claims!

It Is the 130th Anniversary of the Automobile
Posted: 1/24/2016

It seems like yesterday, but it was January of 1886 when Carl Betz filed an application for his "Gas-Powered Vehicle." He was granted German Patent DRP 37435 and nothing was ever the same again. Benz's first car was three-wheeler.

Shortly before that, in April of 1885, another German, Gottlieb Daimler, filed a patent application for a "Riding Car." It had only two wheels, so it became the prototype for the motorcycle. When Benz introduced a larger, four-wheel model automobile, he named it after his daughter, Mercedes. Year later, Benz and Daimler decided to join forces, and the successor was the venerable Daimler-Benz AG. When Daimler-Benz bought Chrysler, it became DaimlerChrysler AG, and when the company spun off Chrysler, Carl got squeezed out and it became the Daimler AG of today.

Will Vizux Give Google a Run for Its Patents?
Posted: 12/23/2015

Google has made several acquisitions over the past few years in the "smart glasses" or "wearable technology" -  sector. It seems that Vuzix plans to challenge Google in that arena. Vuzix just acquired U.S. Patents Nos. 6,243,054 'Stereoscopic user interface method and apparatus" and 6,559,813 "Selective real image obstruction in a virtual reality display apparatus and method" from the patents' inventor. Terms of the sale were not disclosed. These two patents will bolster Vuzix's portfolio of 50 related issued patents and patent applications.

What we find interesting is that these are not newly issued or even recently issued patents. Both patents have 1998 Priority Dates, the '813 Patent was issued in 2001, and the '812 patent was issued in 2003. In Smart Glasses time, that's a century ago! So these patents, based on their dates and forward citations, cover much of the fundamental technology behind Smart Glasses. So exactly what is Vuzix up to?

Déjà Vu All over Again?
Posted: 12/23/2015

And while we are on the topic of Smart Glasses, it appears that Google has apparently switched gears - or switched eye sockets - and is moving toward a "monocle-like" Google Glasses. Google was just issued U.S. Patent No. 9,195,067 for a "Wearable Device with Input and Output Structures." The patent describes a head-mounted device that drops down over one eye instead of the previous Google Glasses that cover both eyes.

Didn't we see this in "Déjà Vu?" We do not mean a flashback or an experience in a former life. We are referring to the 2006 film starring Denzel Washington in which he wears a head-mounted drop-down monocle-eye piece attached to a time machine so he can drive through the current traffic in real time while he chases the bad guy in a second set of traffic in past time, and manages to kill no one. Or was he driving in past time and chasing the bad guy in real time? Now we are confused and will have to rent the movie. 

There Are Patents and There Are Real Patents
Posted: 11/30/2015

Remember the "hoverboard" that Marty used to escape from Biff in "Back to the Future?" Well, there are a few products on the market that use the product term "Hoverboard" but they do not actually "hover." They operate on two wheels firmly attached to the ground below.

Mark Cuban, the billionaire and star of "Shark Tank," has been back and forth with U.S. Patent No. 9,045,190 for a "Two-wheeled self-balancing motorized personal vehicle with tilting wheels" by prolific inventor Shane Chen. It appears that Cuban has licensed the patent, and while he has railed against patents as being anti-innovation, he is now threatening to sue Walmart if they introduce a hovercraft that infringes his patent!

There Are Hoverboards and There Are Real Hoverboards
Posted: 11/30/2015

A company called "Arx Pax" holds two patents for an actual hoverboard that actually hovers: U.S. Patent Nos. 9,126,487 for a "Hoverboard which generates magnetic lift to carry a person" and 9,148,007 for "Magnetic levitation of a stationary or moving object." Arx Pax has developed and is apparently commercializing what it calls "Magnetic Field Architecture," and the applications for it extend beyond really neat toys to motion and control, lift and isolation, and energy transmission.

The First Hoverboard?
Posted: 11/30/2015

Back in 1960, two decades before Marty McFly and Doc became cultural icons, U.S. Patent No. 2,953,321 for "Vertical take-off flying platform" was issued to Hiller Helicopters which is still in business today and supplying aircraft to the military. Notice in the patent drawing that the operator is wearing a helmet. We find no evidence that this patent was ever successfully commercialized.

No Wait, I Was Calling You!?
Posted: 10/29/2015

Vonage, provider of Bring-Your-Own-Broadband (BYOB) cloud and cellular products, has been awarded an interesting patent. U.S. Patent No. 9,106,673 is for "Systems and methods for connecting telephony communications." The technology provides an algorithm that determines when two parties are trying to call each other back at the same time, and it automatically connects the call rather than giving both parties a busy signal. Bravo! But why did it take so long for someone to come up with a solution to that problem?

Build a Better Mousetrap....
Posted: 9/25/2015

We've all heard this adage from Ralph Waldo Emerson a few thousand times. So in this edition of Patent Leather we celebrate the man who actually did this, one William C. Hooker. Mr. Hooker is widely recognized as the man who invented the classic, spring-loaded mousetrap, and that is supported by U.S. Patent No. 528,671 granted November 6, 1894 for an "Animal-Trap." He called it an "animal" trap because in the abstract the invention is described as catching "mice and rats." Why the hyphen? We cannot tell. In the application, no prior art was cited. And, we must assume, none was found by the patent examiner who signed off on the patent.

Taking the "better" concept seriously, Bill followed up with U.S. Patents 580,694 in 1897, 665,906 and 665,907 in 1901, 717,002 in 1902 and 744,343 in 1903. Each patent was an improvement on the previous "Animal-Trap" except it still had that pesky hyphen.

Bill Hooker's genius is still recognized today. In 1981, Sterling Drug was issued U.S. Patent No. 4306,359 for "Animal Traps." We see little significant improvement in the '359 patent over the original '671 patent other than they got rid of the hyphen. And as recently as 2006, one John Peters was issued U.S. Patent No. 7,117,631 for a "Microencapsulated animal trap bait and method of luring animals to traps with microencapsulated bait" that looks a lot like Hooker's 1894 version.

A Flexible iPhone?
Posted: 10/29/2015

Apple keeps popping up in this space, but the company does make news. Apple recently acquired U.S. Patent No. 8,855,727 for a "Mobile electronic device with an adaptively responsive flexible display." According to the patent's abstract, the invention is a mobile electronic device having a flexible display for which a request to retrieve information from a server over a wireless network is triggered based on flexing the flexible display device and other gestures. Is this a glimpse of a future generation of the iPhone?

Does Your Business Need a Patent Landscape Report?
Posted: 9/25/2015

A Patent Landscape Report (or PLR) gives an organization a snap-shot of a specific technology from an intellectual property perspective. Such a document can assist a business with its strategic planning, R&D, technology transfer, marketing and resource allocation. A PLR can also be used to analyze the value and validity of patents within the technology covered by the report.

Sounds like a pretty hefty task, right? That's why WIPO commissioned an extensive, but very helpful, document to help organizations develop a Patent Landscape Report. Patent information specialist Tony Trippi was commissioned by WIPO to create "Guidelines for Preparing Patent Landscape Reports," and it is a free download from the WIPO sites.

Apple Will Offer Even Thinner iPhones
Posted: 9/25/2015

Apple has just been issued U.S. Patent No. 9,142,925 for a "D-shaped connector" that will most likely replace the current low-profile headphone plug and receptacle. The design features external contacts positioned along a sleeve, and dielectric strips isolate contacts along that sleeve to carry left audio, right audio and microphone signals. The ground contact is in the plug's tip.

We are reminded of the old expression that you cannot be "too rich or too thin." And that apparently applies to Apple's cash position and its iPhones.

Apple Is Awarded Search Patents
Posted: 9/25/2015

One would think that a search engine would apply for search patents, but Apple was just assigned three search-related patents. The thinking by Apple watchers is that this new technology will be used to search Apple TV via Siri. The three most interesting are:

9,098,363 Search extensibility to third party applications
9,129,017 System and method for transfer among search entities
9,130,017 System and method for metadata transfer among search entities

Fuel Cells to Power Future Apple Laptops?
Posted: 9/25/2015

Looks like Apple Day around here, but that is where the patent-related backstories are coming from this month. Apple applied for some fuel cell patents back in 2011-12, but its latest is apparently specifically designed to replace a battery in a laptop. U.S. Application 20150249280 for a "Fuel Cell System to Power a Portable Computing Device" is pretty straightforward in its intent.

Fuel cells have been around for decades. NASA used them for power aboard its space vessels back in the 1960s, and the major auto companies all have fuel cell-powered prototypes. The technology is very attractive. Hydrogen and oxygen are merged using a catalyst to produce H2O. The protons are permitted to join together, but the electronics must take a circuitous path, and that chain of electronics is captured as DC current. moving parts and no pollution!
The challenge has been getting down the cost of extracting hydrogen from fossil fuels like methane or coal and delivering it to consumers.

Carbonite Buys Rebit for Its Patents and Staff
Posted: 9/15/2015

A leading provider of cloud-based data storage and continuity solutions, Carbonite, has purchased its smaller competitor, Rebit - lock, stock and patents for an undisclosed sum. With the purchase, Carbonite gets all six Rebit employees and all of its accounts, but it also acquires Rebit's portfolio of about 20 U.S. and foreign patents.

Look for Liquidmetal Castings in Future iPhones
Posted: 8/25/2015

As we've written many times before in this space, to see where a company is going, follow the patents. Apple was just issued U.S. Patent No. 9,103,009 for a "Method of using core shell pre-alloy structure to make alloys in a controlled manner." Sounds like a patent for U.S. Steel or maybe Nucor, doesn't it? When almost anything cools, it shrinks, and this patent addresses controlling the size of a metal alloy cast product as it cools and solidifies. Also known as "bulk metallic glasses," casting forms from alloys is a tricky and sensitive process in which crystallization can occur if the alloy does not cool at the proper rate.

So look for cast metal cases for future Apple products. What occurred to us is that with the generally depressed price of steel company stocks, Apple probably has enough cash to just buy a steel company.

Did Yappn Just Pay $17 Million for Three Patents?
Posted: 8/25/2015

Yappn, the real-time language technology and translation company, just entered into an agreement to buy Ortsbo, a subsidiary of Intertainment Media. The purchase includes three patents assigned to Ortsbo as well as "other intellectual property including Ecommerce and Customer Care know-how" according to the official release from Yappn. The three patents are:
8,917,631 "System and method for sharing information between two or more devices"
8,983,850 "Translation system and method for multiple instant message networks"
9,053,097 "Cross-language communication between proximate mobile devices"

To be fair, in addition to these three issued U.S. Patents, there are several foreign patents. But for $17 million, there must have been significant "know-how" in this purchase!

Did Ninebot Just Pay $80 Million for 400 Segway Patents?
Posted: 8/25/2015

Ninebot, a Chinese manufacturer of personal electric vehicles will be buying Segway, the American manufacturer (and inventor) of personal electric vehicles. The purchase price was not given, but Ninebot partnered with Xiaomi, a Chinese smartphone OEM, that raised $80 million to fund its part of the deal.

Segway has over 400 patents, and it has aggressively asserted those patents. In fact, the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled that Ninebot infringed both patents and copyrights belonging to Segway. So the CEO of Ninebot, Wang Ye, explained, Ninebot bought Segway. If Xiaomi chipped in $80 million, and Ninebot chipped in another $80 million, that's $160 million. If half of the investment was for the 400 patents, that's only about $200,000 per patent, and the remaining $80 million is for the Segway operating business?
For the future, Ninebot and Segway will operate as separate businesses selling their products under their respective brands, but Ninebot will not have to worry about those pesky patent infringement claims coming from Segway.

Love What You Do, and Do What You Love
Posted: 8/25/2015

Brothers Dominique and Bruno Legaignoux just sold U.S. Patent No. 7,494,093 "Wing having a negative dihedron for towing a load" and its Canadian and European counterparts to Best Kiteboarding for an undisclosed amount. Some kiteboarding manufacturers had been paying a royalty to the Brothers Legaignoux, but now that Best Kiteboarding owns the patent, it will be collecting the royalties and enforcing the patents.

The '093 patent covers all kites with a concave trailing edge, and that is apparently the state-of-the-art in kiteboarding, so that's most of the kites on the market today. We cannot help but wonder if at some point in their lives young Dominique and Bruno were told to "Go fly a kite" and they did?

Ballard Flips Its Fuel Cell Patents
Posted: 7/29/2015

We congratulate Ballard Power Systems for a wonderful patent flip. "Flipping" is most usually associated with real estate, but it is done with patents more often than one realizes. Last year, Ballard bought a portfolio of patents from United Technologies - the parent of Carrier (air conditioning), Otis (elevators), Sikorsky (helicopters), Pratt & Whitney (aircraft engines) and a few other American icons - when UTC apparently decided to divest itself of its fuel cell holdings.

Ballard bought UTC's fuel cell patents for about $250,000 each. Less than a year later, Ballard sold off the fuel cell patents it did not need to VW-Audi for about $650,000 each. The Ballard-VW transaction is reported in the Second Quarter 2015 Patent Value Quotient.
And...don't forget that we have a very interesting selection of fuel cell, solar energy and power management patents in the Energy/Power Management section of our Patent MarketPlace.

Without the Patents, What Is Left?
Posted: 7/29/2015

Sony Computer Entertainment recently acquired the patent portfolio of OnLive, a popular - but, apparently, not profitable - cloud gaming service. OnLive has had a troubled past. It was originally funded with venture capital, and at one point was valued at $1.8 Billion (Billion with a "B")! Earlier this year, it ran out of cash, had massive lay-offs, and was sold for a measly $4.8 Million (Million with an "M").

Sony jumped in and bought OnLive's 140-patent portfolio for an undisclosed sum. OnLive then promptly shut down operations. No patents. No business.

Why Is Apple Buying Biometric Patents?
Posted: 7/29/2015

We've often referenced the advice that Woodward and Bernstein's secret informant "Deep Throat" gave them: "Follow the money." As you have often read in this space, our advice for investors and competitors is "Follow the patents." Apple just bought 26 biometric patents from Privaris. Terms of the deal are confidential. This follows the acquisition of four patents from Privaris back in 2012. Terms of that deal also confidential. Speculation among Apple watchers is that the patents will be used to improve Apple's touch screen features to possibly include fingerprint log-in for Apple PCs, iPhones and Watches.

We cannot help but mention that we have an exciting portfolio of Biometrics ID patents in the Network/Location Based section of our Patent MarketPlace.

Who Received Patents Last Wednesday?
Posted: 6/30/2015

Last year, the Patent Office issued over 300,000 utility patents. That works out to about 25,000 a month. We thought we'd take a look at how many patents were issued to well-known companies on just one day, Wednesday, June 23:

Samsung - 192
IBM - 136
LG - 99
Canon - 74
Google - 63
Toshiba - 55
Apple - 52
Microsoft - 52
Intel - 49
Panasonic - 46
Sony - 41
Hitachi - 41
Micron - 28
Hewlett-Packard - 26
Fujitsu - 21
Huawei - 19
Nokia - 17
Amazon - 16

Why Is Apple Buying Biometric Patents?
Posted: 6/30/2015

Remember the joke about the people waiting in line to see "Titanic?" A fellow says to his date, "I wonder if the movie includes the ship actually sinking?" And the guy behind him in line responds, "Oh, thanks for giving away the ending!"

It appears that Google wants to address exactly that issue, especially for those who are still waiting to see what happens to Stannis Baratheon in the season finale of "Game of Thrones." U.S. Patent No. 9,002,924 "Processing content spoilers" enables those who do NOT want to know how things turn out to block incoming data about that episode.

Carbonite Buys Rebit for Its Patents and Staff
Posted: 5/27/2015

As everyone knows, after Rockstar bought the Nortel patent portfolio, it sold off the juciest of the Nortel patents - those covering 4G cellular - to Apple for an undisclosed amount. We have it on good authority that Rockstar was hoping to get $1.3 billion for the remaining roughly 4,000 (about 2,500 issued U.S. patents and about 1,500 foreign patents and applications) telecom patents. The only serious taker, RPX, was willing to pay just $300 million. They settled not exactly in the middle at $900 million.

Apple Pays $3 Billion for $1 Billion Company
Posted: 5/27/2015

Apple recently laid out a cool $3 billion for Beats Electronics, a manufacturer of headphones and speakers that was founded by rapper Dr. Dre and hip hop mogul Jimmy Lovine.

Market advisory services company NPD Group had put a value on Beats Electronics of $1 billion. So we have to ask where Apple came up with a purchase price of $3 billion. Might it be the three design patents, one utility patent, three U.S. patent applications and a handful of foreign patents and applications that accounts for the additional $2 billion?

Apple Pays $3 Billion for $1 Billion Company
Posted: 5/27/2015

U.S. Patent No. 2,794,788 for "Adhesive Compositions Containing Alkyl Esters of Cyanoacrylic Acid" was issued June 4, 1957 to Eastman Kodak. The lead inventor was legendary inventor Harry Coover. The invention relates to adhesive compositions containing certain esters of u-cyanoacrylic acid and to methods for their use. Heretofore, no one type of adhesive has been generally useful as offering an outstanding bond with all classes of articles.

Here is a hint: While this is not in the Army Field Manual, the product was routinely used by medics in Vietnam to hold skin together while an injured GI was transported to a field hospital. Second clue: The patent was sold to Loctite Corporation. The product? Super Glue.

Can a Patent Affect Stock Prices?
Posted: 4/28/2015

Apparently it can. GoPro manufactures a line of wearable cameras that has a following with mountain climbers, deep-sea divers and other adventurers who do not have the luxury of simply hanging a camera around their necks or wrists. Earlier this year, Apple was issued U.S. Patent No. 8,934,045 "Digital camera system having remote control." The application for this patent was filed by Kodak back in 2012, and Apple acquired the application when Kodak sold its patents to raise badly needed cash, so the patent issued to Apple. In fact, the images in the issued patent show a camera with "Kodak" on it.

When its many observers concluded that the patent covers a camera that is superior to the GoPro product, GoPro's stock tanked. GoPro stock had peaked at around $90 after a recent IPO, but it dipped to below $50 when news of the Apple patent issuance broke.
We have to ask: Does Apple plan to get into the wearable camera segment? The growth in this segment has been significant. In fact, one of the patents in the Spring Patent Round-Up is for wearable technology, and growth in this segment has been so strong that a trade show, Wearable Technology USA has sprung up to serve the market. We also have to wonder what would have happened if the folks at Kodak had held on to the patent application so that the patent had issued to Kodak?

Carbonite Buys Rebit for Its Patents and Staff
Posted: 4/28/2015

Apple was one of the investors in the Rockstar Consortium that purchased the Nortel patent portfolio back in 2012. Of the $4.5 billion that Rockstar paid for the Nortel patents, Apple put up $2.6 billion. Earlier this year, RPX acquired 4,000 of the Nortel patents from Rockstar for $900 million. This patent transaction will be reported in the First Quarter 2015 Patent Value QuotientTM when it is released next month. Maynard Um, an analyst at Wells Fargo, estimates that as Rockstar pays back its investors, Apple could see a profit of as much as $392 million!

Google to Apple: Just a Minute
Posted: 4/28/2015

Just as the Apple Watch is about to be released, Google launched its Android Wear updates. Google has supported smart watches for some time, so it decided to add upgrades to its Android Wear operating system. Several of the newest enhancements, such as Wi-Fi support and doodles for messaging, takes dead aim at the Apple Watch. It is nice to see that Apple has some serious competition, we just wish it were not Google.

Guess the Product
Posted: 4/28/2015

In 1972, U.S. Patent No. 3,691,140 "Acrylate copolymer microspheres" was issued. What popular product found in every home and business was covered by this patent? The abstract tells us that the patent covers infusible, solvent-dispersible, solvent-insoluble, inherently tacky, elastomeric copolymer microspheres consisting 90-99.5 percent by weight of at least one alkyl acrylate ester and 10-0.5 percent by weight of at least one monomer selected from the group consisting of substantially oil-insoluble, water-soluble, ionic monomers and maleic anhydride. The key phrase is "inherently tacky" and we do not mean continually in bad taste.

If we told you the patent was issued to 3M, would that help? Or that the inventor, Spencer Ferguson, set out to find a super adhesive that would compete with Super Glue®? The '140 patent covers the adhesive in Post-it® notes.